By Allison Schoenauer
Elm Staff Writer
When I was looking at colleges in high school, I had three requirements: my college had to be in a warm climate, it had to offer the subjects I was interested in, and it had to have a strong study abroad program. Washington College had two of the three, and so here I am.
Next year, I will be living and studying in England, just outside of London. It’s been a life-long dream of mine to live abroad, and going over while still protected by the institution of college—which gives you cheap housing and a reason to be there—is going to be the best opportunity I, or anyone at any college or university, will be ever be given. Study abroad means encountering a different world, a different group of people, even a different language. It allows a student to expand his or her mind, to explore his or her horizons, all while having a safety net if anything ever goes wrong. And things will go wrong, according to Murphy’s Law, or Tucker’s Law, the latter of which I suggest the readers look up if they don’t mind British humor and bad words.
Coming to WC was probably one of the best decisions I made, if only because it offers tons of study abroad opportunities. If you can swing the costs, there is an opportunity to travel abroad for every summer break a student will have here—and even for the summer after a student graduates. And each opportunity allows for a new experience, even if you just end up in the same country.
Last summer, I went on the Kiplin Hall trip, which takes a dozen-some students to the north eastern region of England and the mountains near Cork, Ireland, where students hike through mountains, explore large cultural centers, and maybe read some poetry along the way. I’m not sure. There was poetry involved, but I was more worried about hiking up a mountain without dying than actually reading Wordsworth and Keats.
This summer, I will be returning to England for the Oxford Seminar program, which takes another dozen students to Oxford, England, where they get to take part in independent study on a subject of their choosing, as long as it relates back to philosophy, religion, or political science. You have to synthesize a 10-page paper at the end of the two weeks you’re at Oxford, and then create another 10 to 20 pages while you’re at home during the summer, but students get to put “independent study at Oxford” on their resumé. Do you know how nice that looks?
There are at least two more school-funded trips this summer, one of which includes a brief trip to Denmark, and it makes me happy to see and hear about these amazing opportunities. And at such a small school! My sister, who goes to a large university, says there are only four options for her study abroad—England, France, Rome, and Japan. Actually, now there are three, because the buildings at the Japanese campus were completely destroyed during the earthquake and tsunami last year. Just three options at a university with a student population the size of Chestertown.
Study abroad is expensive, as my parents, my college student bank account and I are entirely aware, but life is expensive, and to turn away a chance to explore something new and amazing is contrary to the ideas that this college was founded on.